Quebec dedicates $200,000 to research long-COVID, 'a drop in the bucket,' says opposition

The commonly reported symptoms included fatigue, shortness of breath, brain anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. (AFP)

Quebec has earmarked $100,000 in 2020-2021 to study the phenomenon of long COVID-19 and will spend another $100,000 in 2022-2023.

"A drop in the bucket," said Liberal health critic Marie Montpetit, "considering that about 10 per cent of Quebecers who have contracted COVID-19 will have long-term effects."

She pointed out some of the long-term symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, memory and concentration problems, anxiety and depression, as noted by the Quebec Institute of Excellence in Health and Social Services (INESSS) on April 12.

"A substantial number of Quebecers are already in this situation," Montpetit said during the study of the Ministry of Health's budget. "I have not heard the premier or the minister of health talk about this."

The opposition Liberals believe that the government should be more concerned about the situation and should be looking at ways to deal with patients with long-term Alzheimer's disease.

They say they are concerned that these people are being "left to fend for themselves."

"There are reportedly already 900 people who have said they are waiting to see a doctor for follow-up. What are we doing? What's the plan?" asked Montpetit.

RESEARCH

Two clinics focused on research have been created in Montreal and Sherbrooke, Health Minister Christian Dube said.

But only the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal (IRCM) has been allocated $100,000 to set up research infrastructures, he acknowledged.

The IRCM, which also sees patients with "special problems," will get another $100,000 in 2022-2023, Assistant Deputy Minister Daniel Desharnais said.

"That doesn't mean there aren't other activities going on at the COVID level, particularly from the various research centres," he said. "Just because there is no support from the ministry does not mean that these projects are not funded in other ways, such as through other research funds or foundations,"

FAMILY PHYSICIANS' TASK

In terms of patient management, the government's goal is not to develop a network of specialized clinics, added Desharnais' colleague, Dr. Lucie Opatrny; it's to provide a guide for general practitioners to take care of them.

For the moment, Opatrny said, there is still a question of "are there specific treatments to be given or is it just support and observation that should be given?"

The INESSS has been mandated to review the literature and develop a guide on the treatment of long-acting COVID-19 that can be used by all family physicians, she said.

  COVID-19 CASES IN QUEBEC
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-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2021.

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